|Magic Kingdom - Preview 1971|
Before the Magic Opened - 1971
by Todd James Pierce
|Monorail Views - Pre-Opening 1971|
Having learned from their opening-day mistakes at Disneyland, Disney executives decided to gradually open Walt Disney World over the course of a few weeks. Instead of opening the theme park during the busy summer season, as they had in California, company management selected one of the slowest months of the year, October, to open the park. Instead of a weekend, they chose a weekday. Instead of a grand opening celebration on the day the gates first opened, the park would be introduced with three week’s of public previews, thereby insuring that all of the kinks could be worked out of the system before the dedication ceremony.
The public preview days began on October 1, 1971. As expected, there were problems with the park. Landscaping and decorative propping were not yet complete in Adventureland and Frontierland. The new submarine voyage was not finished; neither was Peter Pan’s Flight. The preview days also gave the Disney World area managers (mostly transplanted from Disneyland) three weeks to better train newly hired Florida cast members in theme park operations.
In the month leading up to the grand opening celebration, Disney flew in 250 regional reporters each week for a three-day press junket at Walt Disney World. Disney management carefully explained to the reporters that they would see the park during its preview period, as construction teams and designers worked to finalized some of the attractions, thereby lowering reporters’ expectations. The plan worked brilliantly, as virtually all of the initial reviews of Walt Disney World were positive.
These photos are likely (a) cast member photos taken during an orientation tour or (b) personal photos taken during an early press junket. As you can see, the park and the Poly are not quite finished, nor do they appear open to the public. Instead, the photo presents a group tour of sorts. (Check out the pic of the Poly to see a tour in progress.) Of course, the photos show construction and work vehicles on the roads (also parked on the dirt). These slides were marked Oct 1971, but that only indicates the date they were developed. I'm guessing they were actually snapped a week or two earlier, in September. But these photos fascinate me for two reasons: first, you can see how the resort appeared in those days leading up to its grand opening; second, with these guided tours, you can sense how careful company executives were to overcome the initial struggles that Disneyland faced in 1955 and to contextualize the Florida park as a work in progress building toward its grand opening.
That's it for this week. I'll see you next Monday. (BTW, just click on the photo for larger views of each image.)
|The Poly with Group, Guided Tours - Pre-Opening 1971|